At a news conference held by Frick Park on Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's (PennDOT) District 11 Executive Cheryl Moon-Sirianni said that she was hopeful the project would be done to replace the Fern Hollow Bridge would be completed by the end of the year.
Moon-Sirianni was adamant that in order to meet the year end goal, construction would have to go smoothly.
“We are dealing with the same supply-chain issues as everybody else,” said Moon-Sirianni. “But we are super excited that the project is moving this fast.”
On January 28th, the Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed, taking multiple vehicles down with it. Luckily, minor injuries were the only things reported.
The bridge reconstruction has made some headway. Four large columns that were visible from the ridge near the bridge site were constructed sometime in the seven months since the bridge collapse. After the news conference ended, a 150-foot-long concrete beam was hoisted between a column and the west side of Fern Hollow, then slowly lowered and put into place. Another beam was set to be placed Monday.
Moon-Sirianni commented on the 108-ton beams, saying they're the largest beams PennDOT has ever used.
Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey said he was happy to see the bridge reconstruction occurring faster than expected. He said without the bridge open, an estimated 18,000 vehicles a day are being rerouted.
“Today brings us one day closer to reconnecting one of the most important things in our city, infrastructure,” Mayor Gainey said.
Thanks to emergency declarations from the city of Pittsburgh and the state of Pennsylvania, the bridge is ahead of schedule. Moon-Sirianni noted that without the emergency declarations, it could be three years before anything got done.
Moon-Sirianni said the emergency declarations allowed officials to procure a design consultant quicker than usual, saving PennDOT about eight months. The declarations also allowed the project to avoid environmental permitting requirements that can take about two years to complete, and the right-of-way easement process was also expedited.
The replacement project is entirely federally funded, with a budget of $25.3 million.
The new bridge will include four, 10-foot lanes for vehicle traffic, with a sidewalk on one side and a 10.5-foot shared-use path on the other side that can be used by pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders. There also will be a new signalized pedestrian crossing near the gate house on the western side of the bridge.
City officials announced Monday that two local artists, John Peña and Carin Mincemoyer, both Pittsburgh natives, will complete beatification projects for the new bridge.